Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

Barracoon: The Story of the Last

New York Times Bestseller"A profound impact on Hurston's literary legacy."--New York Times"One of the greatest writers of our time."--Toni Morrison"Zora Neale Hurston's genius has once again produced a Maestrapiece."--Alice WalkerA major literary event: a newly published work from the author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a foreword from Pulitze...

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Title:Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"
Author:Zora Neale Hurston
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" Reviews

  • Lulu

    Wow! Kossulo’s story is touching and heartbreaking. I felt as if I was sitting there with him and he was personally telling me his story. There isn't much that needs to be said, go read it.

  • Petra X

    10 star book awaiting review. Read it because to hear a person who had been enslaved and told his story in the 20th C whose frame of reference is similar to our own, as was the author, is more than enlightening. It's not just about slavery but being captured and sold in Africa.

  • Naori

    I have thought long and hard on this and I do not feel like I can give this any formal review. This is a case in which I feel I would be trespassing on the author’s words, and by this I mean Kossulo’s, by superimposing any thoughts of my own. There are pieces of history we will never get back. For many of us, this is why we write: to re-imagine the stories of slavery, for instance, because we do not have words to tell us. This is a living, breathing document and should be treated as such. Just l

    I have thought long and hard on this and I do not feel like I can give this any formal review. This is a case in which I feel I would be trespassing on the author’s words, and by this I mean Kossulo’s, by superimposing any thoughts of my own. There are pieces of history we will never get back. For many of us, this is why we write: to re-imagine the stories of slavery, for instance, because we do not have words to tell us. This is a living, breathing document and should be treated as such. Just like the recordings of the stories of the final survivors of the Holocaust, we cannot rewrite their stories. We can only let their words echo inside of us and understand how they are a part of us, as we are a part of that part of history we created. Such are the words of Cudjo. He says many times in the book that there is no way to understand his life if he doesn’t tell the lives of his forefathers. At one point when Zora gets frustrated with this he retorts, “Where is de house where de mouse is the leader?” (20). This is how we all must understand the unfathomable meaning of this text for us RIGHT NOW. We cannot pretend to care about any of the critical social and political issues of today, we can’t march in the streets, hold rallies, go on social media, start movements - if we aren’t willing to look into our past and see where this is all coming from. It doesn’t matter what you believe in, what you care about or don’t care about, where you live or what age you are. This is a piece of history we can never get back, and this was a historical reality that a great deal of the world participated in, or still does. Everyone needs to read this book. Just simply, everyone needs to read this book. For ourselves, for our own ancestors, for the world we live in today, and for the world that is to come.

    And thank you Zora, thank you...

  • Will Byrnes

    Before she was a world-renowned novelist, Alabama-born and Florida-raised Zora Neale Hurston was an anthropologist, an ethnographer, a researcher into the history and folklore of black people in the American South, the Caribbean, and Honduras. She was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, producing works of fiction in addition to her anthropological work.

    – from History.com - (Credit: Erik Overbey Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama)

    It was during this period that she first met the last known black man transported from Africa to America as a slave, Cudjoe Lewis. She interviewed Lewis, then in his 80s, in 1927, producing a 1928 article about his experiences,

    . There were some issues with that report, including a serious charge of plagiarism. Hurston returned to Lewis in Africatown, Alabama, to interview him at length. It is these interviews that form the bulk of her book,

    , plagiarism no longer being at issue.

    - image from Smithsonian

    Her efforts to publish the book ran into some cultural headwind, publishers refused to proceed so long as her subject’s dialogue was presented in his idiomatic speech. Thurston refused to remove this central element of the story, and so the book languished. But the Zora Neale Trust did not give up, and a propitious series of events seemed to signal that the time was right

    Then there is the story itself. Hurston gets out of the way, acting mostly as Cudjoe’s stenographer and editor, reporting his words as he spoke them. It is a harrowing tale. A young village man in 1859, Kossula (his true name) was in training to learn military skills when his community was attacked by a neighboring tribe. His report of the attack is graphic, and gruesome. Many of those who survived the crushing assault were dragged away and sold to white slave traders. (Definitely

    their choice, Kanye) We learn of his experiences while awaiting his transportation, his telling of the Middle Passage, arrival in America and his five years as a slave. He tells, as well, of the establishment of Africatown, after the Civil War ended the Peculiar Institution in the United States, and of the travails of his life after that, having and losing children, running up against the so-called legal system, but also surviving to tell his tale, and gaining respect as a storehouse of history and folklore. This is an upsetting read, rage battles grief as we learn of the hardships and unfairness of Kossula’s life.

    The book stands out for many reasons. Among them is that it is one of very few reports of slavery from the perspective of the slave. There are many documents available that recorded the transactions that involved human cargo, and many reports by slavers, but precious little has been heard from the cargo itself. It is also a significant document in teaching us about the establishment of Africatown, a village set up not by African Americans, but by Africans, Cudjoe and his fellow former slaves. The stories Cudjoe tells are often those he learned in his home culture.

    – from the British Library

    is a triumph of ethnography, bringing together not only a first-person report on experiences in African slave trading, but reporting on slavery from a subject of that atrocity. In addition Kossula adds his triumphant account of joining with other freed slaves to construct an Africa-like community in America, and offers as well old-world folklore in the stories he recalls from his first nineteen years. It is a moving tale for Hurston’s sensitive efforts to reach across the divide of time to encourage Kossula to relive some of the darkest moments any human can experience, sitting with him, calm, caring, and connecting. And finally, it is a truly remarkable tale Kossula tells. It will raise your blood pressure, horrify you, and encourage bursts of tears. You think

    had it tough? And for this man to have endured with such dignity and grace is a triumph all its own.

    - image from wiki

    The text of the story is short, but Kossula’s tale is epic. Editor Deborah G. Plant has added a wealth of supportive material, including parables and old-world stories Kossula told to his descendants and to residents of Africatown, a description of a children’s game played in his home town in Africa, and background material on Hurston, her professional issues with an earlier piece of work, and her involvement with the Harlem Renaissance, without touching much on Hurston’s unexpected political perspective on segregation. The information adds to our appreciation of the book.

    - image from

    Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama

    The ethnographical research Hurston did bolstered a perspective on African culture that different was not inferior, that African culture had great value, regardless of those who believed only in Western superiority. Long before Jesse Jackson, such research proclaimed “I am somebody.” The research Hurston did in the USA, Caribbean and Central America certainly informed and strengthened the portraits she painted in her fiction writing.

    The history of slavery is a dark one, however much light has been shone on it in the last century and a half. This moving, upsetting telling of a life that endured it is a part of that history. That this 80-year-old nugget has been buried under the weight of time is a shame. But there is an upside. The pressure of all those years has created something glistening and wonderful for us today, a diamond of a vision into the past.

    Review posted – 5/25/18

    Publication date – 5/8/2018

    =============================

    -----

    – Cudjoe appears in the opening scene

    ----- On the

    in Africatown - WKRG in Mobile – it also ncludes an interview with Israel Lewis, one of Kossula’s descendants

    -----

    and the challenges it faces, particularly from hazardous industry nearby

    -----Emma Langdon Roche’s 1914 book,

    , includes much on the Clotilde

    -----

    - includes images from E.L. Roche

    -----Smithsonian Magazine – May 2, 2018 -

    - by Anna Diamond

    ----- History.com piece on ZNH’s work on Barracoon -

    by Becky Little – (the interviewing was actually done in the 1920s)

    -----Bitfal Entertainment -

    , with many uncaptioned illustrations

    -----Time Magazine -

    - by Lily Rothman

    ----- On the slave ship

    -----NPR’s Lynn Neary talks with Amistad’s editorial director Tracy Sherrod, and Barracoon’s editor Deborah Plant -

    - Definitely listen to the entire interview. It is under four minutes. One wonderful benefit is to get a sample of the audio reading of the book, which sounds amazing.

  • Renee

    I was deeply engrossed in this slave narrative based on Hurston's interviews with Cudjo Lewis, the presumed last living African held captive and taken to America to become a slave in 1860. While the work is heavily prefaced with discourse on Hurston's process of coming into the writing of this novel (and claims of plagiarism), Cudjo's story itself is only 94 pages. The tail end of the book contains an extensive appendix with stories, endnotes, and other items pertinent to the work.

    Emotionally, I

    I was deeply engrossed in this slave narrative based on Hurston's interviews with Cudjo Lewis, the presumed last living African held captive and taken to America to become a slave in 1860. While the work is heavily prefaced with discourse on Hurston's process of coming into the writing of this novel (and claims of plagiarism), Cudjo's story itself is only 94 pages. The tail end of the book contains an extensive appendix with stories, endnotes, and other items pertinent to the work.

    Emotionally, I despaired at Cudjo's longing to return to his native land and be among people he knew and loved. His parting from all that was familiar made me sick to my stomach--it is truly unfathomable. Academically, I imagine this work will become an essential piece--if not in its entirety, then in excerpt-form--in high school and collegiate classrooms across the world.

    Hurston composed the work based on her interviews with Cudjo Lewis between 1927-30 and was never granted publication in her time because publishers felt the use of vernacular would be off-putting to readers; a sentiment she obviously did not agree with, as she refused to change the work in order to achieve publication. I'm grateful to Harper Books for publishing Hurston's work posthumously, and for sending me an advance copy in exchange for this honest review.

    Full review can be found here:

  • Lata

    Fascinating and heartbreaking, Kossula relates his traumatic experience in his youth of his village being slaughtered and he and other youths being sent into slavery in the US. Zora Neale Hurston spends many days listening to Kossula's stories, and other days letting the man simply get on with his chores as she gained his trust.

    The "interview" section of the book is prefaced by some background on Hurston's reasons for engaging Kossula, as well as Hurston's ambivalence to the academic approach. A

    Fascinating and heartbreaking, Kossula relates his traumatic experience in his youth of his village being slaughtered and he and other youths being sent into slavery in the US. Zora Neale Hurston spends many days listening to Kossula's stories, and other days letting the man simply get on with his chores as she gained his trust.

    The "interview" section of the book is prefaced by some background on Hurston's reasons for engaging Kossula, as well as Hurston's ambivalence to the academic approach. And there are stories, related by Kossula, that end off the book. I found the stories interesting, and imagined he had related these to his children and grandchildren.

  • Didi

    Check out my review here:

  • Diane S ☔

    I chose to listen to this in audio book form, and think it was a great way to hear Cudjos story. The narrator does a fantastic job with the dislect and I felt like I was there hearing Cudjo speak his own story. The last cargo of slaves brought here, at an age, eighteen I believe, that would allow him to remember his life in Africa, and when he was taken. Heartbreaking. Was interesting hearing about his life in Africa, strange of course to my American ears, but that is what it was.

    What I didn't l

    I chose to listen to this in audio book form, and think it was a great way to hear Cudjos story. The narrator does a fantastic job with the dislect and I felt like I was there hearing Cudjo speak his own story. The last cargo of slaves brought here, at an age, eighteen I believe, that would allow him to remember his life in Africa, and when he was taken. Heartbreaking. Was interesting hearing about his life in Africa, strange of course to my American ears, but that is what it was.

    What I didn't like was the beginning, an argument that encompasses the controversy surrounding this story. I felt it was circular, repetitive and the result lacked clarity. The end of the the book was a few more stories where once again it seems the truth is open to debate.

    So I give Cudjos story and the telling of it 4 stars.

    But taken as a whole, have settled on three.

  • Chrissie

    Here, Zora Neale Hurston expresses why she wrote this book.

    I have had difficulty rating this book. That the book has now finally come to be published

    of course wonderful. It should have been published decades and decades ago!

    , but, but… I do have some complaints with the final product.

    Only half of this book is in fact Cudjo Lewis' story, his story, told by him. Zora Neale Hurston was absolutely right in demanding that his vo

    Here, Zora Neale Hurston expresses why she wrote this book.

    I have had difficulty rating this book. That the book has now finally come to be published

    of course wonderful. It should have been published decades and decades ago!

    , but, but… I do have some complaints with the final product.

    Only half of this book is in fact Cudjo Lewis' story, his story, told by him. Zora Neale Hurston was absolutely right in demanding that his voice should be heard and that he was to be allowed to speak in his own dialect. Cudjo Lewis was the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade. He was captured by a rival tribe in 1859 and sold into slavery. Oluale Kossola, renamed Cudjo Lewis by the plantation owner who bought him in 1860, spent three weeks in a stockade (a barracoon) and was shipped to America on the last slave ship, the Clotilda. Born in 1841, he came to America at 19 years of age, was a slave for five years and six months and then was freed by Yankee soldiers on April 12, 1865. In Africa he was one of twelve siblings, the second son of his father’s second wife. In America, he married, had six children, all of whom died as well as his wife before his own death. He converted to Christianity and after a train accident became a sexton in a Baptist church in Africa Town, a.k.a. Plateau, Alabama.

    First in July of 1927, then in December and finally 1928, he came to be interviewed by Zora Neale Hurston, cultural anthropologist, investigating ethnographer and author. She had been “sent by Dr. Franz Boas to get a firsthand report of the raid that had brought him to America and bondage, for Dr. Carter G. Woodson of the

    .” Cudjo was then eighty-six and had lived in America for sixty-seven years! Zora let Cudjo speak—in his own time and in his own way. On a doorstep, on a porch, after sweeping the church, after introducing his two great grandchildren and sending them each off with peaches in their hands, Cudjo would talk and remember and Zora would listen, only rarely interposing a question, enjoying a peach, a hunk of watermelon and time together.

    These interviews and Cujo’s remembrances are the core of this book, but they are only about half of the entire book. The other half consists of multiple prefaces and introductions and an appendix. The first introduction is written by Deborah G. Plaint. Thereafter follows a preface and introduction by Zora Neale Hurston. In this way material comes to be repeated over and over and over again. There exists an unresolved discussion of whether Zora Neale Hurston had plagiarized information from

    's

    . While I agree that this had to be included, the many details, rather than clarifying, leave the issue still open to debate. Why Hurston’s book, completed in 1931, was not published is also discussed, the primary reason being she insisted on retaining Cudjo’s original dialect and vernacular. The appendix at the end has assorted stories, the value of which can be questioned.

    We hear Cudjo’s story and we hear it in his words, which has great value, but do not mistakenly think you will be given Zora Neale Hurston’s prose. All though the telling is straightforward, a reader / a listener must perceive what this poor man has gone through—the loss of his entire family, the loss of his country and home, the loss of freedom and the horrific memories of the slaughter of his tribesmen and passage over the sea. His words as well as his silences speak.

    In print, the dialect could perhaps be hard to follow, but this is not the case when Robin Miles reads the audiobook! I never had trouble understanding the text! The African names were a bit of a blur, since I recognized nothing. The dialect and vernacular does demand one’s full attention while listening. The narration I have given four stars.

    This is a story that needed to be told, but the presentation is repetitive, much reads as an academic essay and some information is in fact missing. We are not told when or how Cudjo died. I do not regret having picked this up. My two star rating means it was OK, not bad!

    I am off to read,

    , only now finally made available to me! I gave

    three stars.

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